How to Contest Wills in New Jersey

By Anna Assad

You can challenge the validity of a will being offered for probate in New Jersey if you are considered a person with an interest in the estate, such as a legal heir. Probate is the legal proceeding used to give the executor -- the person who oversees the estate -- authority and validate the will; in New Jersey, probate is handled through the surrogate's court. New Jersey has two valid grounds for a will contest: the person making the will, or the testator, was mentally incompetent at the time, or was subject to undue influence from another person.

Step 1

Gather supporting evidence for your competency contest. Contact the physician who cared for the testator at the time the will was executed; you must prove the testator's mental state at the time of the will's execution in New Jersey. Ask the physician about the testator's mental state. Request copies of medical records.

Step 2

Collect evidence of your undue influence challenge. Search the testator's home for correspondence or other evidence of the relationship between the testator and the person you are alleging coerced or pressured the testator in making his will.

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Step 3

Make a list of persons you believe can offer information to support your case. New Jersey law permits witness testimony at the contest trial. Contact each witness and verify the information. Tell the witness you are pursuing the case in court so he is prepared.

Step 4

Visit the New Jersey Surrogate Court clerk's office where the will is being offered for probate. Ask for the complaint form to initiate a will contest and court instructions. Fill out the complaint in full. Detail your reason for the contest. File the complaint with the court clerk. Take the stamped copy of the complaint from the clerk.

Step 5

Serve notice of the complaint on all interested parties, as required under New Jersey law. You must serve all persons with an interest in the state, like heirs and beneficiaries, the executor and the estate's attorney. Contact the court to determine if the parties must be personally served or if you can mail the notice by certified mail, return receipt requested. File proofs of service with the court.

Step 6

Attend mediation with the estate's representatives. New Jersey typically recommends mediation for both parties to try and resolve the issue prior to trial. You will be notified of the mediation date and time by mail. Make a list of events that support your contest to prepare yourself.

Step 7

Inform all of your witnesses of the date and time of the trial if mediation does not work. Your witnesses must attend the trial to testify on your behalf.

Step 8

Comply with all court requests. Attend your hearing on the date and time set by the court. Bring your original evidence with you.

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How to Contest a Will Because of Mental Capacity

You may contest a will if you're an interested party, such as an heir or beneficiary of the deceased person, known as the decedent, and believe the decedent didn't have the mental capacity necessary to write a will. You must prove the decedent didn't meet the mental capacity standard at the time he wrote the will. The mental capacity required to make a will is much lower than the legal standard for other acts, such as making a contract. The will maker, or testator, must know who he is, have a general understanding of the assets he owns and understand the relationship between himself and likely beneficiaries of his estate, such as his spouse and children.

How to Remove an Executor of a Will

Chosen by the testator -- the person who writes the will -- and nominated in the will itself, an executor administers the will and sees it through the probate process. He gathers and invests assets, handles will contests, pays estate bills and distributes remaining property to beneficiaries. Courts only interfere with the testator's choice of executor in extreme circumstances, such as upon a convincing showing that the executor is incapable of undertaking his duties or that his actions are dishonest or fraudulent.

Procedure for Contesting a Will

When a person dies, his will goes through a court-supervised process known as probate. This process provides a reliable and legal method of managing the deceased’s estate. Individual states regulate the probate proceedings, and may set limitations on anyone's ability to contest the validity of a will in probate.

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